New York City on a budget?! Sounds impossible when airfare and hotel prices today are through the roof.
I’ve met some people that want to visit New York City, but haven’t because they think it’s too expensive. That’s a shame because New York City is one of the best cities in the world and it can be affordable on even a tight budget.
Yes, that’s right!
As a student myself, I like to get the best value for my money and I never hesitate when an opportunity arises to visit Manhattan. Here are my favorite ways to save money when traveling to NYC.
1. Save money with the New York Pass
Visiting NYC for the first time can be stressful. New York is a big city and there’s lots of fun things to do and see. It can be challenging to plan an itinerary and determine which attractions to spend your money on.
For my first trip to NYC, I didn’t have a plan. I tried to do some research before my trip to decide what to see and do, but I quickly got overwhelmed. I thought I could just figure it out while I was there.
BIG mistake! When I returned home from my trip, there were so many attractions that I missed, because I didn’t plan ahead.
That’s why for my second trip, I didn’t want to repeat this mistake. I discovered the New York Pass, which helped me easily plan my itinerary and visit all the top attractions in the city. With the New York Pass, I saved time, money, and enjoyed stress-free sightseeing.
Read my honest review of the New York Pass here.
PRO TIP: Buy the pass online to save time and hassle. Plus, you’ll save extra money off the retail price. To buy the New York Pass, click here to go to the official website.
Here’s what’s included in the New York Pass:
✔ Pick from over 100 NYC attractions
✔ Valid for up to 10 days
✔ Save up to 70% compared to purchasing tickets at each attraction
✔ Visit unlimited amount of NYC attractions each day
The New York Pass is a prepaid sightseeing card that can be used to get FREE fast-track entry to the city’s top tourist attractions, including Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour, Empire State Building, and the Top of the Rock Observatory.
Standard Entry Price
FREE with the New York Pass
Standard Entry Price
FREE with the New York Pass
Standard Entry Price
FREE with the New York Pass
Plus, you can use the New York Pass to get free entry to 100+ other attractions, museums, and tours in the city. Once you’ve bought the New York Pass, you can visit as many attractions as you want. The more sights you visit, the more money you save! Think of it like an all-inclusive holiday.
How to get your New York Pass:
Step 1: Choose which pass duration you want to buy (1, 2, 3, 5, 7, or 10 day). You can click here to purchase your New York Pass from their official website. When you buy the pass online, you can take advantage of online discounts.
Step 2: Download your mobile pass instantly using the New York Pass App. If you prefer a physical pass, simply opt for delivery (they deliver worldwide) or collect on arrival in New York.
Step 3: You now have FREE access to any of the 100+ top NYC attractions included for the duration of your pass. You can activate your pass anytime within 12 months from the date of purchase.
Step 4: Download the free guide book, which is included with your purchase. Use this book to help you easily plan your itinerary.
2. Get to know the metro
When I first visited New York City, I was overwhelmed by the subway system. It looked like a big spider web to me. But once I rode the metro, I quickly realized it was easy to use.
Grab a MTA card at one of the vending machines in the airport or at any metro station. You can purchase an unlimited subway pass if you plan on using transit a lot during your visit.
My top tips for riding the metro are:
- Make sure you enter the correct station (some stations may only go Uptown or Downtown, while some offer both lines)
- Be aware of which train stops at which station (express trains bypass some stations while local trains stop at each station on the line).
- Download a map of the subway system on your phone. (There are also maps posted in each station too if you need assistance).
3. Should you fly, drive or take the train?
There are many ways to get to New York City. Flying is the fastest and most convenient option for many, but sometimes driving or taking the train is more affordable.
If driving, you won’t need your car to get around NYC. Instead, find a garage to park your car for the duration of your stay. If going with a group, this is the best value because you can divide the cost between everyone.
When flying, there are three major airports close to Manhattan: LGA, JFK and EWR. Compare flight prices and select the one with the best price. Depending on where your accommodationa are located, travel times from the airport to your hotel may vary.
I always sign-up for email alerts on Skyscanner. This lets me know when it’s the best time to book. I usually fly into LGA since it has offers the best price for me. You can take the bus into the city for only a few dollars. This is much more affordable than taking a taxi.
If you do decide to take a taxi from the airport to your hotel, be aware of the fares. There are flat rates from the airport to most locations in Manhattan, so don’t let your cab driver overcharge you!
My must-have NYC accessories:
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4. Know when to book your hotel
As one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, it’s no surprise that New York City hotels can be extremely expensive (starting at $200+ per night).
My number one tip is to start checking hotel prices early and on a daily basis. Checking prices in advance can give you more hotel options in your budget.
Another great way to save money on accommodations is to book through Airbnb. I have used Airbnb throughout North America and have always had a good experience. It’s great for groups, friends, or couples since prices are often cheaper than hotels.
CLICK HERE to get a coupon to use towards your next stay with Airbnb!
Where’s the best neighborhood to stay? This is a personal preference and should be based on your interests and what attractions you plan to visit. My favorite spots to stay in Manhattan are Midtown East (near Grand Central Terminal) and Times Square since these locations provide a good base for exploring the city.
I do NOT recommend staying outside of the city. I’ve stayed outside of Manhattan (New Rochelle) before and it was such a hassle to commute to and from the city.
You’re reliant on the train schedule and round-trip tickets from New Rochelle Station to Grand Central were $20 per person during peak hours ($15 off-peak). When traveling with a group, the price of train tickets can add up fast.
5. See Broadway shows at a discount
One of the most popular things to do in Manhattan is to see a show on Broadway. But tickets can be very expensive. I found the best way to save money on show tickets is to look for deals on Viator.com. This website offers lots of discounted tickets to shows, concerts, sports, and more.
6. Consider visiting during the off-season
New York City is a major domestic and international tourist destination year round.
A visit during the off-season doesn’t really exist; but if you’re looking for less crowds and reduced hotel prices, the best time to go is between January and March. (The busiest and most expensive time to visit is between Christmas and New Years).
New York City can get quite cold during the winter months, so keep this in mind if you plan on doing a lot of outdoor activities; summer tends to be hot and humid. I have managed to find good deals on hotels during both of these times with patience and daily price checking.
7. Look for free events and attractions
While New York City can be expensive, there’s lots of free events and attractions to suit any interest. This includes free walking tours, comedy shows, concerts, museum days and art exhibits. Check to see which free events or attractions are happening during your visit.
I also like searching for discounts Viator. This website offers up to 40% off things to do in NYC, sightseeing tours, day trips, Broadway show tickets, and more.
8. Skip the New York souvenirs
Manhattan is a shopper’s paradise. From high street to luxury finds, there’s no end to the spending you can do in the city. While many visitors come to New York specifically to shop, I recommend setting a budget for yourself and sticking to it.
Skip the cheesy souvenirs and budget for something important to you. If the locals aren’t wearing “I ‘heart’ NYC” fashion, you probably shouldn’t either.
9. Eat dinner during happy hour
Happy hour is popular in New York City and offered seven days a week at some restaurants.
Happy hour can be found throughout Manhattan and is great for drink and food specials. It usually starts at around 4:00pm and goes until 8:00pm (or closing). If you’re not sure where to go, you can check for deals online. Most restaurants also advertise with signs outside.
Food specials can include pre-fix menus or up to 50% off appetizers. New York restaurants can be expensive and eating during happy hour can be a great way to save money.
For breakfast, stop by a local deli for a quick and delicious breakfast or grab a bagel at one of the many food stands on the street.
For lunch, have a slice of pizza or head to one of the popular food trucks. If you’re not sure which one try, just look for one with a long line-up of locals.
10. Spend time outdoors
Finally, a great way to stay on a budget when visiting New York City is to spend time outdoors. People watch in Central Park, take a stroll on The High Line or walk across the Brooklyn Bridge are some of my favorite outdoor activities to do in the city.
Another great thing to do is to walk through the different neighborhoods in Manhattan. I love the architecture in Soho and walking through Greenwich Village. Check to see if there are any free events or walking tours happening outdoors when visiting.
During the winter months, walking around the city can be a bit cold so make sure to dress for the weather and stop inside a local cafe to warm up with a hot beverage.
Over to you — what are your tips for visiting NYC on a budget?
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